Pelicans vs. Raptors Pick NBA – January 31st

What the heck is going on in South Beach?  If you’ve missed it, the hottest team in the NBA is the Miami Heat.  No, LeBron, Wade and Bosh ain’t walking through that door anytime soon, but don’t tell Deion Waiters it matters – my man ain’t gonna hear ya.  Waiters had 18 in last night’s eighth straight win for the Heat, this one at the expense of the Nets, and has averaged 21.8 points per game during the winning streak.  Waiters also has averaged nearly five boards and five assists in the process, making him, gulp, one of the more complete players in the NBA for the month of January.

Less you think this streak is built on fluff, they have beaten the Warriors and Rockets as part of the flurry.

The third hottest team in the East?  Of course, it is the Philadelphia 76’ers (Wizards are 8-2, by the way, though they aren’t quite as surprising).  And to make things even MORE fun, the Mavs beat Cleveland last night (my loss) to complete a 28-hour sweep of the Cavs and Spurs (huh?!?) and the Timberwolves and Mavericks are the second-best teams over their last ten games in the West at 7-3, behind only the steady Warriors at 9-1.

So… is this just the typical pre-All Star malaise, or a true sign of a level of parity rarely seen in the NBA?

Either way, let’s just keep it real and say it doesn’t make wagering as easy as it was the first month of the season… it’s been a crazy few weeks for sure.  Perhaps it is time to start exploring some real underdog values

Today’s Free Pick:

New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors -8

It’s been a rough go lately for Toronto, dropping six of seven games including home losses to the Magic and Suns.  They are still the #3 seed in the East and just a game behind Boston, but even with the Cavaliers having one of the worst months of LeBron James’s career, can’t make up any ground and have given away a golden opportunity.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is a mercurial ballclub the past two weeks, looking like a contender for the eighth spot in the West some nights (wins over the Cavs and Spurs) and like a Lottery team on others (143-114 loss to Brooklyn at home).  But even in their road defeats against decent teams they have hung around and kept things close.  They lost by single digits at Indiana, Boston and Chicago and won at New York and Brooklyn (I know, odd, right?)

They are getting enough points tonight that keeping it close will suffice for a winning wager.  I’m playing the LINE more than anything else tonight, taking the eight points as a cushion, even if Toronto finally wakes up tonight and returns to form.

Free Pick:  New Orleans Pelicans +8

Chris Scheeren / Author